If there’s one question I get asked a lot from educators, it’s how to download YouTube videos. There are lots of reasons why you might want to do this, but truthfully, there aren’t any good reasons why you should. I realize that this may not be a very popular post with some people, but I feel like it should still be written. In essence it comes down to this. Can you download videos from YouTube? Yes. Should you? No.
Why Would You Want to Download Videos from YouTube?
The number one reason why educators want to download videos from YouTube is an unreliable Internet connection. This may be at school, or at a conference where they are giving a presentation. Either way, they don’t want to stand at the front of the room waiting for a video to buffer. It ruins the flow of a presentation and inevitably leads to you losing the attention of your audience.
Other reasons for downloading a YouTube video include the desire to archive your own copy of the video just in case it ever gets removed from YouTube by the person who uploaded it, or by YouTube itself. Some teachers may want an offline version of a video for students who don’t have high-speed Internet at home, while others may just be using software like Apple’s Keynote, which doesn’t let you natively embed YouTube videos in your slides.
What Do the YouTube Terms and Conditions Say?
As a user of the site, you agree and are bound by these terms. In Section 5, Your Use of Content, they say:
Content is provided to you AS IS. You may access Content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the Service and as permitted under these Terms of Service. You shall not download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content. You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content. YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service and the Content.
Here we can clearly see that it would be against YouTube’s terms and conditions to download content from YouTube without a specific button or link on their site that permits you to do so. Why would they have this condition? YouTube is owned by Google, and Google make a lot of their money from advertising. The more you visit YouTube, the higher their site visits are, and the easier it is for them to sell advertising on videos. You might not like to see ads on your videos, (few people do), but YouTube is a free site, and this is how they pay to keep the service alive and available for everyone to use.
So, I Can’t Download Anything From YouTube?
You can download your own content from the Video Manager page. Admittedly, you probably already have an offline version of your video, but if you deleted the original, it is good to know that you can download it again if you need it. Simply go to the Video Manager from your channel page or by navigating to www.youtube.com/my_videos. Click the down arrow next to the video you want to download and look for the Download MP4 option.
Is it Illegal to Download Videos from YouTube?
I’m not a lawyer so the advice that follows should absolutely be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt. Downloading videos from YouTube may not seem like a crime if you think of it in the context of ignoring (or being unaware) of the YouTube terms and conditions, but you could potentially be in breach of copyright. After all, the original creator of the video retains ownership of the copyright associated with that work if they upload it with the Standard YouTube License.
This gets a little dicier when you consider that some very large corporations put some of their very expensive intellectual property on YouTube. Movie studios upload trailers, record companies upload music videos, and media companies upload original content. We all benefit from these great offerings, but you can be sure that none of these corporations would approve of you downloading their content for your own use, so you are very likely in breach of copyright.
What’s the Harm? Everybody does it, right?
Unfortunately, lots of people do. In fact, some of the biggest offenders are the speakers and headline keynotes that you enjoy listening to at your favorite EdTech conferences. I’m not going to mention any names, but I see it a lot and I’m sure you do too. Do they get permission from the original copyright holder to download and show those videos? Some do, some don’t. So this brings us to an important classroom concept that, as educators, it is our sworn duty to reinforce with all of our students; digital citizenship.
We need to practice what we teach. We are role models for our students, so we need to act in the way that we would want them to act. This, to me, is the biggest reason why we should not download videos from YouTube. It might seem like a small thing, but it sends a message that it’s okay to bend the rules. It can easily lead to other transgressions like not citing image sources or using 13+ products and services that you are not old enough to use without parental permission. (By the way, did you know that YouTube is a 13+ service?)
What Should I Do Instead?
YouTube is an amazing resource, of that there is no doubt, but you needn’t abandon it altogether. If you are using it in a school that does not have the most reliable internet connection, have a plan B. Technology is great when it works, but we all know that it all fails at one time or another, regardless of the device or service that you rely on. Plan B is a great example for students, so embrace it.
If you are giving a presentation at a conference, remember PowerPoint 2013 (and later) lets you embed a YouTube video in your slides. Google Slides let you do the same, and so does Prezi. If it works, great. If not, you too need a plan B. One that includes an ethical use of media. You could leave a link to the video on your slide so the audience can see it later or you could try to contact the original creator of the video to procure and get permission to use an offline version of their work.
I have no doubt that there may be some of you who have read this post and did not know that you were not supposed to download videos from YouTube. That’s okay. How many of us have clicked “Agree” on 47 pages of terms and conditions without ever reading one word? I know I have. I’m not perfect. No one is. I am sure there are posts in this blog that lack a link or a citation to sources that should have been cited, but it wasn’t deliberate, and I genuinely try to be the best digital citizen that I can online, just as I am sure you do too. There are things I forget, or just don’t know, but I’m human, I’m still learning, and I will always take feedback on how I can improve. So the next time you think about downloading a YouTube video, be it for educational purposes or otherwise, think about the example you are setting for other teachers and educators.